I’m going to go quiet on the Wilkos stuff for a bit now, but the battle is far from over. I’m in the process of collating all the signatures, photocopying the resultant sheets and sending these off to all relevant parties. The original set I intend to submit at the next full-council meeting at the Town Hall: I’ll let you know before hand when this is if you’d like to attend with me. Personal experience of attending council meetings is that a good showing of campaigners is effective: councillors very rarely wish to be appear in a bad light when the public are glowering behind them.
If you were not able to sign, there is a way to get your name down. Simply drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your details on (don’t worry, I won’t sell them to unscrupulous address harvesters) and I’ll get you included. The terms of the petition are simple: ‘We the undersigned urge all those concerned to ensure Wilkos remains in Beeston’.
Heres a (badly edited, sorry) thing that I did on BBC Radio Nottingham about Wilkos:
While in the depths of the Wilkos campaign, I did a bit of research on the company and found a cracker of a fact I couldn’t not share with you: In the 1945 stiff -upper lip romantic film Brief Encounter, a Wilkos store (a branch in Beaconsfield, to be exact) is visible in the background of a key scene where Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard politely discuss love through the emotional straitjacket of being English in the Olden Days. Next week I’ll be describing how Chilwell Lidl was the location set for Sunset Boulevard.
It’s the new year in a few hours, so I will be working on the annual End of Year Round-Up the moment I motivate myself into reading a year’s worth of Beestonia. This could take some time: writing it is hard enough, you don’t actually think I read it as well? So help me along and let me know who the Beestonia heroes and villains were; what events shook Beeston, anything that saves me having to face the task of trawling through the 100,000+ words I’ve flung onto here over the last 12 months.
And finally, a cockle-warming Christmas tale. Cos I love Christmas very much, and I love it because however rubbish it might be, however hateful the hangover, however dry the turkey, however dire the jokes that fall from the inevitably disappointing crackers, I’ll NEVER have a Christmas as bad as one I endured 11 years ago, which I will tell you now and then have erased from my memory by some DIY keyhole lobotomising. It has nothing whatsoever to do with with Beeston besides having me as the protagonist, so only read on if you’re into self-indulgent whimsy. Oh, its not for the squeamish either….
At the time, I lived in Kent, working and living in a sprawling real-ale pub. We were the largest pub in town -Tonbridge, to be precise-and I was roped into manning our tiny upstairs bar with a normally reliable barmaid called Laura. Laura, who that day decided to have a few pre-work sherries and turned up so drunk she spent the entire shift sprawled over the Bacardi Breezers in a dead sleep while I suddenly found the whole of the Weald of Kent at my bar demanding booze, and demanding it now.
After six hours sweaty, back-breaking graft I threw the last punter out and joined the staff on the main bar, which had been properly staffed allowing all the pint-pullers to get pleasantly mullered through the night. I made myself a Black Russian – I had strange tastes back then- and was about to take my first, much awaited slip when my colleague Adam decided to roundhouse kick it out my hand, apparently, ‘for a laugh’.
I didn’t laugh. I didn’t even smile. Far from it. I launched myself at Adam, and we ended up rolling around on the floor, in the fag-ash, beer slops and broken glass, intent on celebrating Yuletide with a spot of homicide. Eventually, we were seperated, and I slunk off to my flat below the pub.
Next morning, I rose early and visited my girlfriend’s house, where I was to spend the rest of Christmas. Sarah: not her real name, for reasons that will become obvious; had a bout of flu, and I got soaked in an icy rain-storm en route, but we both determined to have a great time.
I should have got out early, straight after the exchange of presents. I should have known her unhappiness at recieving a book of poetry from a poet I thought she’d said she ‘liked’ when she had actually said ‘despised’ was an omen. And I should have definately cut my losses and evacuated when she reacted badly to her other present, an engraved pen. I only had spelled her name slightly wrong, but I should have packed up then.
But I persevered, and even faked a smile at her presents to me: three self-help books, addressing problems I wasn’t even aware I was suffering from; and when she announced Christmas dinner was ready, assumed I’d got through the toughest bit. Oh, how very wrong can a man be?
She wasn’t the greatest cook, but had made a decent fist at preparing a traditional plate of food, which I gratefully tucked into. Yes, the slices of turkey were still slightly frozen on the outer edge, yes, the roasties were Aunt Bessie, and no, I wasn’t previously aware that guacamole was a usual addition to the plate. Yet, when washed down with a warm glass of Liebafraumilch, was just dandy. Then Sarah vomited onto her own dinner.
I’m not a fussy man: I’ve had a kebab from the chippy on Wollaton Road, sober, but I do have a line and that crossed it. Maybe if the expulsion has been exclusively thrust out upon her own plate, I’d have been fine, but there was a fair degree of splash-back and that found itself on my food. My appetite diminished in a millisecond. The line was crossed. After ensuring Sarah was ok, I pushed the remainder of my meal into the pedal bin.
This seemingly rational action infuriated Sarah who, still dabbing away at her mouth, exclaimed ‘ I spent hours on that, and you just THROW IT AWAY’
‘But…but I was nearly finished…and there was a bit of sick in the gravy’
‘HOURS. OVER. A HOT. STOVE’
At this point she was physically shaking. Prudently, I picked up my coat, and headed home.
I planned to spend the remaining hours of Christmas day in my under-pub flat, watching TV and cooking up some nice supper later on. Salvage something from a wretched day. The key turned in the lock, and I strolled in to find my carpet made a noise, which it had previously never done. And the noise was a squelch. This seldom precedes something good.
The picture above shows what was my flat: its that window on the right. That big wet thing right next to it? That’ll be the River Medway, that had decided to rise up and flood for a while earlier that day. Dirty cold water had eked in, drenching a huge spot on my carpet. A two hour clean-up job ensued, my hands red-raw from scrubbing the river filth from my thin-pile flooring.
After dousing any remaining damp in a thick dusting of Shake n’ Vac, I sat down to watch whatever distracting tat I could find. Sadly, that required electricity, of which there was none. The flood had shorted the fusebox in the unreachable pub cellar, and as the Landlady and Landlord were away in Gillingham, I had no way of restoring it. A steely resignation set in, and with a sigh I saw out the rest of Christmas evening with only a cold tin of beans and a text message informing me I was single for company. Merry Christmas!